Summary: Dustin finds a mysterious tadpole-creature and grows attached to it. He shows it to the others and Will recognizes it as the slug he coughed up. Will gets in another episode and confronts the monster but it doesn't go well. Nancy calls Barb's parents and wants to tell them the truth but the lab people listen in to her conversation. Hopper suspects the lab people are responsible for the dead crops. El escapes and goes to school to find Mike but leaves after she sees him with Max. Joyce sees the monster in a video and goes to look for Will.
The Good: This was another solid episode, though some problems are popping up (see: The Bad).
I enjoyed Dustin's pollywog storyline a lot. That is currently the biggest mystery of the show and I was surprised by it. Dustin was very fun as always and he had some very funny moments and his love for the pollywog felt very real. He's a nerdy kid who just made a big discovery by himself, so of course he doesn't want to see anything done to it. The other kids' fears were also realistic though and I'm happy that Will recognized it right away and quickly got afraid that he had produced the pollywog. This storyline had all the chances to be conveniently written with characters behaving in forced ways, but the writing was top-notch and everything felt real. This is probably my favourite storyline in the entire series thus far.
I also really liked how Will's story went. It had some good writing in getting Bob to give some advice, which he thinks is the right thing to do. But of course we know better and that advice may have just done something terrible to Will. We will have to see what consequences will come to Bob in future episodes. The last scene itself was very tense and gave us a great cliff-hanger going into episode 4.
These 2 storylines also provided some brilliant tension to keep me on the edge of my seat as I never knew what to expect would happen next in most cases. The use of tension is refreshing and a lot of scenes had me really clamouring to see more. This show is regarded to be extremely bingeable, and this episode helped prove that it is still a true fact despite the slower pacing of the first 2 episodes.
El's flashbacks with Hopper were enjoyable too. It was good to see the story go full circle so we can understand everything about El and Hopper. If there is some kind of emotional payoff that will be attempted down the road, the seeds have been sown here for it to have at least a little bit of impact. Though I do feel we still need to get a bit more from Hopper and El's relationship.
There were some other developments that I really enjoyed. I'm glad that Joyce discovered the monster was real and I'm happy to see her being continuously worried for Will as expected. Hopper suspecting the lab people was nice too. I enjoyed Nancy and Jonathan working together again and their joint decision to call Barb's parents felt like a logical decision which will undoubtedly have some major consequences. El leaving was also handled well and I enjoyed her finding her way to the school. I'm not sure what to make of her being jealous of Max, but it's something different so I won't call it bad. The character writing on this show is good so I have faith that it should go somewhere rewarding.
I was happy to see more explanation as to what happened to Will. We needed to get that earlier but better late than never.
The Bad: There were some small things I didn't like. Though Dustin's story was fun, there were some problems. A lot of the jokes felt familiar (especially the curiosity one) and him just stealing the library books did not feel at all real. I wasn't a fan of El clearly using her powers in front of other people as she should know better than that by now.
This was my least favourite episode of the season for sure. Why? Because it undid everything the last 2 episodes did at being unpredictable. I felt confident that we would go a different route this season, but what happened in this episode? So many familiar plot lines that we have already seen before. There was the aforementioned curiosity joke being used twice but that was the least of the repetition problems. Will seems to have been kidnapped again by the monster and needs to be saved, Joyce is back to her panicked mom act, Hopper is suspicious of the lab people, Nancy and Jonathan team up after Nancy has issues with Steve, and somebody with a relationship to Joyce (in this case Bob) messes something up. This is all very familiar stuff an it is deeply unsatisfying to see the same story being told for a second time. I hope that things will diverge next episode but my hopes are dwindling. Max, Billy and the pollywog aside, this entire episode was nothing new whatsoever.
And once more the series falls into problems with being clichéd and predictable. After Bob told Will his story, I knew that next time Will went to the Upside Down it would backfire on him. The lab people are obviously responsible for the dead crops, the kids will likely get into some conflict over a new member of the party (this time Max) and there will be some drama. There are many other small example of predictable storytelling and it is once more plaguing this show.
The Unknown: A couple odd questions this time.
What is the pollywog and how will it impact the story?
What happened to Will at the end? Has he been taken again or will he still be fine, just traumatized?
What is Billy and Max's relationship if they aren't siblings? Why are they together?
Best Moment: Probably Dustin talking with his mom at the start of the episode. It was funny, charming, tense and unpredictable like most of the rest of the episode wasn't.
Character of the Episode: Dustin again for being so damn awesome.
Conclusion: Another solid episode, but this one has been plagued by some of the problems I was expecting to see in this season. It was still easy to enjoy, but by seeing so many familiar stories, it takes me out of the show a little. Hopefully we will get more of a divergence next episode.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.